This is a guest blog post. Views expressed in this post are original thoughts posted by Martin Brown, Access Control Product Specialist from UTC. These views are his own and in no way do they represent the views of the company he works for.
As you may recall, in part 1 of "My Brief Path to Juniper Certification", I had the sudden realisation that I wasn't as experienced and as knowledgable in the world of networking as I believed myself to be. From that point onwards, I knew I had some serious research to do. I needed to get myself up to speed in what other enterprise network solutions were available in the market. I needed to learn about Junos.
So, back at the hotel on the night of the meeting, I went online and immediately began researching about Juniper Networks. Finding the history of the company was easy, but that really didn’t help as I needed to learn how to use it, how to configure it, I needed to become certified. Looking through the education section of Juniper’s website I discovered what I needed to study was JNCIA. Great, I now have a goal, I just need study material. Amazon was my first port of call, but a search brought up a number of books. Which of these books should I buy though? Finally a choice was made, but before checkout, something told me to go back to Juniper’s website. At which point I found a link to something Juniper call “Fast Track”. Okay, you have my full attention.
“Fast Track” is an amazing program that allows network engineers, with previous experience from other vendors, to learn Junos but without having to go through all the basics such as subnetting and the OSI model a second time. This program is cleverly designed to build on the knowledge already acquired to get you up to speed as quickly as possible. This was perfect for me. After filling in the relevant registration forms, I could access the study areas, download the study guides and watch the excellent “Junos as a Second Language” video. Something, however, was missing.
It soon became apparent to me that studying was one thing, but you need to practise that which you are learning. Now, you can call me a cynic if you want, however, but there are not many companies out there who will allow you to “play” with their live Juniper devices just to allow you study. I realised I needed a device of my own to break. Next stop, e-Bay, except, no, there were no cheap second user devices available, although there were some brand new M series routers, tempting, but none the less, not cheap. What I felt I needed was a simulator. A quick google later, I discovered that there wasn’t one at that time. Further searching was performed without avail, except one name kept coming up “Olive”.
For the benefit of those that don’t know, Olive is a name given to a PC or virtual machine that is running Junos on anything but Juniper hardware. Reading through various warnings, I discovered that it is indeed frowned upon by Juniper to use Junos in this way, however, I was desperate and I so wanted to learn so upon my return to the UK I dusted off an old machine added some network cards, installed VMWare ESXi on it, created a VM for the Olive, installed Junos and all was well, except, it wasn’t. Sure, I could route packets, I could build a routing table, but there were none of the interfaces mentioned in the JNCIA study guide and things were limited because of the lack of FastEthernet interfaces, CoS couldn’t be enabled, “Show Chassis” commands didn’t work and it just didn’t ‘feel’ right. What I really needed was real kit.
Thinking back to when I was finding out about Juniper, I came across the “One Junos” slogan. This gave me another thought. If it’s the same Junos, then why would I need an M series router or an EX switch to practise on? Are there smaller devices similar to ISRs that run Junos? So I went back to Google and I discovered the SRX, specifically the SRX100, a small, relatively cheap firewall, running a full version of Junos. This was perfect. I double-checked everything was as it seemed, placed an order with an authourised reseller and within days I had a brand new Juniper device sitting on top of my study rack. In addition, I also discovered that when purchasing a new device, you get one free update of Junos after you register, so, not only did I have the real equipment, I could practise a real upgrade too.
As soon as I had a geniune Juniper device, I was able to very quickly finish the JNCIA Study guide, so I read it a second time, then when back to the “Fast Track” section to take the pre-assessment exam. This exam allows you to, not only test your knowledge to gauge your progress, but when you score 70% or higher, you are given an e-voucher for 50% off of the cost of the full exam.
How was this possible? I'd invested a lot of time and effort. I was disappointedm to say the least, but then it struck me this really wasn’t a bad thing. I could see in which areas I struggled most and realised that if I’d found this out during the real exam, I’d have just lost my exam fee. This really did give me a second chance, so I went back to the study guide and read the Juniper documentation to revise my weakest subjects and tried once again. Success. Soon after, I booked the live exam and passed first time.
In the final part of my story, I go through the next steps I took on my certification path and the plans I have to continue my journey. I also answer a question you may be asking from part 1. Until then, I hope you all have a great day.